The rent relief program in New York, a long overdue measure to ease the economic fallout from COVID, has had a slow and confusing roll out which has left many low-income New Yorkers in the lurch. The program promises to pay up to a year’s worth of unpaid rent as well as utilities bills for those whose applications are approved. This is absolutely needed- according to USC research group National Equity Atlas, more than 500,000 New Yorkers have unpaid rent totalling approximately 2.2 billion dollars. While a $2.7 billion rent relief fund exists, only a small fraction of that has been actually distributed. And with the eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of August, this money is needed fast!
All the barriers blocking the rent relief fund money from reaching New Yorkers showcase the inadequacy of the city’s response to housing insecurity. Even though the rent relief program was approved in April, the online portal for renters to actually apply for these funds did not open until June, nearly two months after. Additionally, this portal has been difficult to use and full of glitches, making it even harder for people to get access to the funds they need. In the face of a global pandemic, the city has failed to utilize its many resources to protect and support those who are most in need.
This issue highlights the need for more comprehensive housing solutions. According to a 2018 New York City Housing and Vacancy survey, over 40% of New Yorkers are rent burdened, meaning they pay 30% or more of their income in rent. And the Bowery Mission provides a startling figure that 1 in 106 New Yorkers are homeless. In the richest city of the world, these statistics are especially deplorable and demand action. This is why the Rojas campaign has a strong plan to address housing needs. In the short term, this includes cancelling rent and mortgages throughout the pandemic and forgiving debts of renters and homeowners.
However, the current housing issues are only symptoms of a larger problem – that under a capitalist system, housing is treated as a means of profit for the rich, rather than an essential human right. Our city needs long term housing solutions, which is why the Rojas campaign is dedicated to making NYC a rent-control city and restoring lost rent-stabilized and rent-controlled units, requiring more affordable housing units at existing developments, and upgrading and protecting NYCHA to ensure safe and comfortable public housing in our city.
PSL Mayoral candidate Cathy Rojas says, “Housing is a human right! New York City can and should make sure that every resident has a home. We need rent relief now for the many New Yorkers who lost their jobs during the COVID pandemic, as well as long term solutions to protect and create housing in New York City that is affordable, accessible, and environmentally sustainable.”